Like every other “school”, the Sunday school also needs to prepare and groom the young ones for life. The Church needs workers functioning in different capacities in it. Whatever ‘call’ each person receives, it has to be illuminated in the context of the concerns of the Church. Stories of the saintly monks in Christian monasticism, and those of martyrs, can really inspire the young people; and instill in them a sense of purpose in life. In many ways, a Christian is an “apostle.” Every person has to fulfill certain divinely assigned responsibilities. The Church is never a worldly institution, running after power and money; and has to “show” that in its life. Young people, being idealistic, shall be attracted by a serving and suffering Church!
The onus of communicating the Christian ‘message’ to our children rests mainly with the Sunday school teachers, who are actually engaged in the “teaching mission” of the Church. Hence, they always need to entertain such a vision based on a rare sense of dedication. The Guru, here, is not a formal and professional individual, but a parent and mentor to the pupils. The life of the Guru counts a lot; since, as different from the secular school, the Sunday school in concerned about the meaning of life and the ultimate destiny of humanity. It shall always remain attached to the local parish church and the celebrations of the sacraments. The holy Bible, the writings of the Fathers and the holy Liturgy, shall serve as a bridge between the life of students in the community and their “citizenship” in heaven.
Therefore, the Sunday school cannot afford to be drudgery for the students; it has to appeal to the mind and conscience of the learners. Of course, this is achieved through lessons, exercises and practical experiences in the church and the community. It thus becomes very obvious that the teaching ministry of the Church is shared by the liturgical activities in the church, and the dynamic uninterrupted functioning of the Sunday school. So, every parish has to provide for the Sunday school in the best manner possible.
One serious handicap with our Sunday school practice, is lack of proper space, and adequately trained teachers. The latter issue is partly solved by the in-service programmes and the new orientation in the curriculum of the two terminal classes. There are only very few parishes, which can provide an “educational space” for conducting classes. This malady is not easy to be corrected. Each parish has to plan and provide a proper space and an educational environment for the Sunday school. The space and physical provisions in today’s Sunday school classes largely fail to convey the message that it is also a school; and thus attract the children towards it. This larger issue shall be addressed at some point, in order to make our church education programme more fruitful and relevant
A Brief History of the Sunday School in the Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church lays great emphasis and importance in educating children with the values of Christian life, the contents of the Bible and the Church history. The “Koonenkurish Sathyam” in 1653 was a turning point. It emphasized the need for Catechism and Scriptural studies. During the period 1765-1808, the study of sacraments and prayers were also included in the lessons. This was the beginning of the Sunday school in the Church. The Sunday School Samajam started functioning in 1931 with the appointment of Puthencavu Geevarghese Mar Philoxenos as its President and Fr. K. David as the General Secretary. On 15 October 1964 it was rejuvenated to receive its present form as “Orthodox Sunday School Association of the East” (OSSAE). This spiritual organization is functioning in all the parishes of the church throughout the world. It takes care of the spiritual nurturing of the children by bringing them up in the knowledge and fellowship of Jesus Christ and His Church.
The classes are conducted in Malayalam for the children in Kerala and for others in English. It has a separate wing for the outer Kerala region, which is called as OSSAE-OKR.
The classes range from Pre-primary classes to the 12th class. As in secular schools, class ten concludes the secondary level and a certificate is awarded -Sunday School final Certificate (SSFC) to the successful candidates. Higher Secondary course is for another two years.
We follow a curriculum, jointly prepared and published by the Oriental Orthodox Churches which is revised from time to time.
PATRON: His Holiness Baselios Marthoma Paulose II, Catholicos and the Malankara Metropolitan
PRESIDENT: H. G. Dr. Yakob Mar Irenaeos
DIRECTOR GENERAL: Rev. Fr. Dr. Reji Mathew
Office Bearers of OSSAE-OKR
PRESIDENT: H. G. Dr. Joseph Mar Dionysius
DIRECTOR: Rev. Fr. Dr. Bijesh Philip
Sunday School in the Delhi Diocese
The Sunday school in Delhi Diocese was started in late 60s and is affiliated to the OSSAE (Orthodox Syrian Sunday School Association of East). It started in the area of R K Puram, New Delhi with two teachers and four or five students. Classes were conducted in the house of an Air Force Officer in Sect-2, R K Puram. Later this was shifted to St. Mary’s Cathedral, Hauz Khas in 1968-69.
There are Thirteen Sunday schools in Delhi and NCR and Nineteen active/partially active Sunday schools in UP, Punjab and Rajasthan areas.
Our mission is to enhance the spiritual growth of the new generation by teaching the Holy Bible and other religious lessons to the children of the parish.
Office Bearers of OSSAE-OKR Delhi
PRESIDENT: H. G. Dr. Youhanon Mar Demetrios, Metropolitan
Rev. Fr. Saji Abraham Director
Rev. Fr. Saju Thomas Assistant Director
Mr. K.K. Babu Diocesan Teachers’ Representative
Mr. Jose P.T. Treasurer
Mr. T.V. Joshua Auditor
Mrs. Annie Varghese NCR- South-East
Mr. Mathew P. John NCR- West
Mr. K.T. Geevarghese NCR- East
Mrs. Mini Jose (Chandigarh) Punjab
Mr. P.O. Geevarghese (Jaipur) Rajasthan
Mr. C.K. Geevarghese (Kanpur) U.P. – North
Mr. Binu Thomas (Agra) U.P. – South
Thought for the Month
By all accounts (narrated only in the Synoptic Gospels) the birth of Jesus is an event revealed only to a select group of people. When we put together the birth narratives we will find that those who are recipients of this birth are the poor shepherds and the Wise Men in addition to St. Joseph and St. Mary. As such it must be seen as an event that received scant attention and by and large the general public is exempt from this revelation. This is one of the reasons that the Eastern Orthodox Churches prefer to celebrate the appearance of Jesus at His baptism (Epiphany) rather than the Christmas. For, at His baptism the declaration of Jesus’ identity was clearly made public.
Why only this restricted announcement? Even with the angelic hosts announcing the event only the shepherds become aware of the significance of the child born in a stable in Bethlehem; St. Luke does not indicate that anyone else became aware of this announcement. We also have to ask why only the Wise Men in St. Matthew’s gospel? Were there no other persons who qualified for this revelation? The answer to these questions lie in the fact that these two categories of people alone met the condition who found favour with God as the angels pronounced. The shepherds were poor in spirit, which meant that their economic and social situations left them with no other support other than God. They could not avail of the subverting influence of gold or silver or political and social clout to gain a privileged positions. Their only hope was in God alone. Similarly the Wise Men sought to meet the great God who would alter the destiny of humankind and nations. They were not mesmerised by the glow of the star or of the lure of worldly wisdom. They sought the One God, and that One God alone. It is probably for these reasons that they alone were able to perceive the greatness of Jesus’ humble birth.
As we celebrate the Christmas with its joy and revelry it would be appropriate to ask ourselves if we own the necessary characteristics displayed by these two groups. Is our life based on God alone or does God come as a footnote to our power and prestige? What is it that we seek after during this Christmas season? Another fat bonus that swells our accumulated financial resources or the many gifts that provide us with fleeting joy? Let us be aware of the fact that even though the first coming of Jesus was announced to a restricted few, His Second Coming will be universally visible. And when we are called to account before our Lord and King, certainly to characteristics He will seek in us will be our complete faith in Him alone and that we have surrendered ourselves totally, body, mind and soul to Him. We have to also keep in mind the fact that at that juncture we will not have the option of either rejecting or accepting Jesus Christ.
For a moment let us imagine the scene around the crib. The birth of Jesus had the additional benefit of integrating all of creation. In addition to the Holy Family there are the angels, the Wise Men, the shepherds and the cattle. While such a scene is not found represented in the gospels it is nonetheless a familiar Christmas card picture. It certainly carries a message. Do our celebrations and services serve to unite all creation or are we isolated in commemorating the birth of Christ within our own preferred circles. The integration of all creation is an intrinsic part of the theology of the Eastern Church, yet another reason why it prefers the celebration of the baptism of Jesus as opposed to the Christmas. However, in this season of Christmas let us try to include all within the circle of our joy and happiness. Let us announce the divine birth to all so that all creation can join in the joyful celebration of our God becoming human so that we could become transformed into His likeness.
I wish you all a blessed Christmas and a joyful New Year!